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Over / Under: Forrest Gump

by
March 29, 2008

Forrest Gump

For an introduction to this weekly retrospective column titled Over / Under written by Matt Goldberg, please visit the first post in the series.

"Stupid is as stupid does."

This oft-repeated rhetorical comeback could not be truer when applied to the film Forrest Gump. I've made enemies out of friends and feuds from family when trying to explain that not only is this film sentimental garbage, but it's a complete misunderstanding of its source material which instead comes to an unnerving conclusion.

Winston Groom's original book was intended as a satire, with Forrest going through major historical events and meeting historical figures but having no appreciation, comprehension, and most importantly, effect on anything that happens. Forrest is a highly reactionary character. The idea of doing what you're told and never questioning your surroundings or examining your life is the joke in the book. In the movie, it's the moral.

Think if someone had tried to adapt Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" like that. Instead of a movie about Ireland's famine, you'd have a movie about eating children. Granted, that would be more entertaining, but if directed by Robert Zemeckis, it would be without a hint of irony.

But beyond the misunderstanding of the book, the juxtaposition between Forrest and Jenny is where the film gets truly offensive. Forrest doesn't question his life. He flatly tells it to strangers, but does so without commentary, emotion, and understanding. Forrest tells Jenny at one point, "I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is," Apparently that's the only emotion Forrest was able to comprehend. Granted, he does show emotions in dealing with people, but he's totally wooden and unfeeling when faced with the outside world.

Now compare this with Jenny who doesn't do what she's told. Jenny, like a human being, makes mistakes. She has no clear pathway because she's trying to figure out life for herself rather than being directed to Vietnam, then to a shrimp boat, and then to being so unaware that she runs the length of the nation for no reason. Jenny's reward for being human: death.

And this is all ignoring the sentimental garbage the film throws at you, from Alan Silestri's manipulative score to that crap with the floating feather. It may sound like I'm throwing more hate at this film than it deserves and I'm just a cold-hearted bastard and while that second part may be true, I believe that a richer film experience comes from thinking about a film and the reward of working to understand its themes and ideas. Films don't have to be simplistic to be uplifting.

Forrest Gump was a box-office smash, won six Academy Awards including Best Picture (beating out superior films like the other films nominated in every category), and is currently ranked #76 on the AFI's Top 100 Films of the Last 100 Years.

Over / Under: OVERRATED!

Forrest Gump

Next Week: BASEketball

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  • Nick O.
    Next Week: BASEketball? How is that movie is even worthy of an Over/Under article?
  • bltzie
    fuck you Matt Goldberg 😉
  • Oh man, I was reading this and going "oh crap this is going to brood some major controversy!" Even I'm a fan of Forrest Gump! Damn you Matt Goldberg!!
  • Ian Kazimeri
    Haha, controversy, maybe. Even I can respect a well thought out opinion, though. I personally loved Forrest Gump. However, I also had no idea it was a book. Now I've every intention of reading it. Keep this up, Matt. I'm into it.
  • MAB
    Damn you Matt Goldberg you sir are a whore, just like Jenney!!!
  • bltzie
    hahahahaha good one MAB
  • Keith
    I might come back with more later, but for now Ill address one issue I have with the article. Comparing the movie to its source material. The book has no bearing upon how good or bad the film is. None whatsoever. Is not the point of the Over/Under column to judge a film's value based solely upon what you see on-screen, not how well it stacks up against its source material, or any other facet of pre-production, for that matter? -"Films don't have to be simplistic to be uplifting." Do you consider the whole film to be simplistic? If so, Im sure you considered that there were elements to it that you had not discovered yet? I have no qualm with the rest of the column so far, as you support your opinions well.
  • Jonas
    Amen. This is what I've been trying to explain to friends and relatives ever since it came out. Do what authorities tell you or die. That's the moral of the story.
  • harrison
    well as they say, stupid is as stupid does, and youve just done some stupid. more than likely youll burn in hell for this article.
  • Really. YOU SUCK Sarah Marshall, excuse me, MATT GOLDBERG!
  • Curtis
    Forest Gump is a great movie and deserved all it got, you suck MATT GOLDBERG!!
  • Wow, calm down, calm down! If you got something to argue, then make your case, don't just go around hating on Matt! Goodness...
  • Korinthian
    Whether it is loyal to the book has nothing to do with the film being under- or over-rated. I enjoy a film because it is good, not because of fancy reasons you self-proclaimed experts come up with. Although it must be nice to pretend that the world is wrong and you right, right? But picking a well-liked movie and dissing it is probably smart move if you want to be remembered. Though most people forget that anyone can do what you just did. Going for Titanic next perhaps?
  • Film elitists on the internet have been hating on this film for a while now. Welcome to the cool club!
  • To those saying that it's not fair to pair the book against the film, that's not why the film is over-rated. There are plenty of films that I love which differ wildly from the book. What I find amusing about this adaptation is that it's still adapting the basic plot of the book but it's changing the message that I find empowering and worthwhile to one that I think is absolutely repulsive. And yes, Korinthian, "Titanic" will probably get the business eventually. Furthermore, sometimes the world is wrong. Just look at crocs (the footwear, not the reptile). But now that I have dissed Forrest Gump, I will be remembered throughout the ages. My destiny has been fulfilled. Now I can finally ascend to the heavens. Oh, to CajoleJuice, I was already in the cool club. We have t-shirts and everything.
  • Korinthian
    You are kind of new to the world of film, aren't you? If a small group individual of bitter-sounding individuals dislike a movie and the rest of the world enjoy it, the bigger part of the population is right. Yeah, the movie was good, and no, the snobbish rationalization of a random somebody's dislike won't change that. If you do decide to go for Titanic, feel free, but please try to back up your arguments with more than fundamentalist reading of the book preceding the movie, and over-analyzing the true feelings of the protagonist. Heed your own advice of being simplistic and you will find less negative feedback mailed to your cool club.
  • I AM new to the world of film! I was unaware that when it comes judging the quality of something, it's majority rules! I didn't know until just now that Shrek 2 is the greatest animated film ever made! Does this rule apply to other areas as well? Is The DaVinci Code one of the best books ever written? Is Dan Brown a literary genius? Also, Titanic wasn't based on a book, which is probably good for you because I think you have a little trouble with reading comprehension. Look at my article again and you can clearly see that I'm against being simplistic. You see, right here: "Films don't have to be simplistic to be uplifting." I find it amusing that you think I failed at reading this film when you failed at reading a sentence.
  • J
    Shawshank Redemption should have won the best picture Oscar!
  • Actually no, Pulp Fiction should have. But Shawshank would've been preferable to Forrest Gump.
  • Keith
    keep it up you two, this argument is becoming very entertaining.... When did FS.net's comment section start to remind me of /film's? It was a Saturday in March... mwahaha
  • alabama man
    I have to say I love Forest Gump and most everyone i know agrees at the very least its a good movie. It seems this article is total link bait or to drum up a flame war as many blogs do. It feels like you wrote this to create controversy rather make a valid argument against the film. I agree that there were more important films that year but your hating on it just seems way overblown. As for the comparison to the source material, I agree with Keith that you cant compare the book with the movie. In practically every case the film is made differently then the movie, for reasons having to do with time constraints and also translating some books to film is far more difficult then others. I haven't read the original book myself but many other books ive read before ive seen the film, the same has held true for me (i.e: 300, V for Vendetta, From Hell, Hannibal, etc). In most cases the films are very different then the books and they can rarely be compared to each other. You can make an argument the film is a poor adaptation of the book but it doesn't necessarily mean the film is bad, it could just be different. Also I think you completely missed a big point of the film. Your opinion on Jenny doesn't make sense. "Jenny's reward for being human: death" is not the point of her getting AIDS and dying. She dies because of her poor life choices, doing drugs and unprotected sex. The same goes for almost all the characters in the film, they are all corrupted in one way or another. Lt. Dan is an alcoholic on the verge of suicide, even the scene where he meets Nixon and later Forest comments on how Nixon got into trouble but he doesn't know for what (Watergate Scandal). Forest is the only pure character in the film because cant be corrupted because he has no understanding of the things that are going on around him. He does what he is told because he doesn't understand those things but he always chooses to do what is right for those around him. He loves Jenny for who she is, regardless of her life choices, He cares about Lt. Dan regardless of how poorly he treats him. He fulfills a promise to Bubba to make the shrimp boat company. He has a good heart, and the point of his character is that although he doesn't understand many things, he does understand the power of love and compassion and no matter what his situation he tries his best to do what is right. The moral of the story is NOT to do what your told and never question your surroundings, that is just nonsense. Forest's character being mentally challenged means he can't understand the real implications of the things going on around him as a result he can't inject much of a bias into it since he is practically oblivious to it. His character allows the viewer to travel along with him through all these famous historical moments and we get to make our own judgments about what we feel about Vietnam/Nixon/Civil Rights Movement. We get to make those decisions, not him. The film never makes any point that following blindly is right or questioning everything is right. The film is about people and the choices they make under the conditions they are under. Jenny, Lt. Dan, political figures like Nixon, and of course Forest.
  • Actually, alabama man, I would claim that Matt wrote this purely voicing his own opinion. You can read his previous pieces in this series as well. He actually e-mailed me and said "the response to this latest one has been pretty incredible" which certainly goes to show that he didn't write it as link bait.
  • Sorry - I haven't read every word of every comment, so forgive any repetition. I'll be brief. First - is "love" just an emotion? I'd disagree on that point. Forrest understanding what "love" is is much greater than him experiencing and showing say... irritation, sadness, anxiety...etc. So, if he truly did know what love was, then contrast that fact against all of his experiences - which I believe was a major point of the film. He didn't understand much, but did love and it was that which drove him: loved momma, loved jenny, loved bubba, loved capt. dan, loved his son. Second - It's ALAN SILVESTRI - if you're gonna blast a guy for writing (a very good score) that well captured the essence of the film at least get the man's name right. While I would have been happy with Shawshank winning that year, I have no problem with Gump winning. Perhaps if there had been a prison-rape scene and poor Gump had experienced the emotion of total denigration, it would have been a better film... to some...and more worthy of the Oscar that it already was.
  • Stabmaster Arson
    "Also, Titanic wasn't based on a book, which is probably good for you because I think you have a little trouble with reading comprehension." "I find it amusing that you think I failed at reading this film when you failed at reading a sentence." I love it when assholes use the same lines over and over again trying to flame someone. "You're stupid!"
  • PimpSlapStick
    I think this reviewer is a retard and sure it may have strayed from the theme of the book and all the high flalooten ideas, but for gods sake it was a good movie. That's all you can ask of a film like this is just to entertain. Then he has the plum idea to do a introspective on Basketball next? Firstshowing fire this lame. Matt Goldberg what a shmuck and that's my Over/Under: 'Tard
  • Actually, the piece on BASEketball would be a RETRO-spective. An "introspective" would be a piece about myself. We learned about that difference in special ed class.
  • Keith
    goddamn this is hilarious. i hope the over/under pieces continue just for the comment gold afterwards!
  • Jaybear
    It took me some time to like forest gump. The first time I viewed it I was to young to really grasp most of it. Now I love it. (I mean what other movies have their own fast food chain.) Just messing on that last comment. Although there bucket o' shrimp at bubba gumps is pretty tasty. I semi agree with matt. Not that the movie stunk, because like I said I did enjoy it. The original concept would have been a masterpiece as well. I think what happened like most movies the original point was to complex and abstruse. For example tonight I was watch I am Legend. If you haven't watched the movie, go watch it, then come on here and watch the original ending (The stupid dollar machine rental had no special features.) Anyhow, the studio basically felt the original ending was to convoluted for the average american movie goer. So they scrapped it for a much more expolsive ending. Such the same with Forest gump. I think people would have had a harder time really understand the satire. You know there is still hope to make that concept come alive. Someone who knows what their talking about and has a pretty good idea of what works and doesn't could make that script. Just different story lines, different people, but stick with the original satircal concept ::hint hint matt:: We need some original scripts out there. The world right now is all a big remake,prequel, trilogy, sequel, book/comic adaption mess. Take the general base idea and make your own script.
  • The point I got from the film that everyone tries to screw Forrest over with their very human traits of greed, jealousy, intolerance etc yet the one who doesn't suffer from these failings that gets ahead. Moralistic maybe but a nice moral that if you don't try and f**k everyone over you might have some good fortune.
  • Jaybear
    Directed at comment # 29 The Power of Karma, ha ha.
  • hahnsolo
    It's "articles" like these that increasingly make this site irrelevant. To analyze the character of Forrest past what he really is, the satirical and innocent/child-like narrator of the 60s, is completely missing the point. All this movie is, aside from a love story, is a retrospective look at one of America's most turbulent decades. And even if one did want to do a character study, your analysis is completely off. Your "juxtaposition" of Jenny and Forrest completely fails to mention, pretty much everything that they did or had happen to them in the film. Jenny died because she was simply human? Nonono, she died because of her systematic abuse and overindulgence of partying, smoking, drinking, and drugs (they only show a couple like coke, but one can assume with certainty that as a hippie turned 70s disco chick or whatever, that she indulged in pot, acid, and something injection worthy since she died of AIDS). And Gump has no emotion? Not true at all; how bout courage, empathy, envy, anger, dedication, morality, selflessness, duty. I concede that someone of those aren't emotions, but are traits, but every person must concede as well that it's a rhetorical question of whom you'd want to fight in battle with, or have on your football team, or be in the shrimping business with. This Gump-bashing seems to stem more from the liberal changes from the novel to the film then the actual content of the film, but then what you are really bashing is the Hollywood system and audiences that need a character to root for that they couldn't have found had they adapted the novel without any changes. This site should stick to trailers, interviews, film announcements, and film buzz/gossip. The editorials insult my intelligence and makes other readers comment and discuss topics of limited scope and depth. I won't mention the systematic high grading reviews of horrible movies. Oh oops.
  • Staatz
    I always kinda thought it was an argument about nature vs. nurture. Jenny is smart as a whip and has a demon for a parent- she makes bad choses, turns her life around too late and dies of aids. Forest had a very good parent and was dumb as a rock but ends up a million-aire.
  • Andrew
    The argument that "most people" like "Forrest Gump" is laughable. Just because most people like Cheetos doesn't make them cuisine. It's the same with movies. Most people also like "Titanic," but that doesn't make it a good movie either. Consensus opinion and quality are irrelevant to one another. In fact, it wouldn't be hard to make an argument that there is, in fact, a negative correlation between the two. If you want to argue that "Forrest Gump" represents quality filmmaking, then you have to make your argument based on the established tenets of film criticism. Saying "most people I know love this movie" is an entirely improper basis for a quality judgment. Do most people know how to properly critique wine? Food? Musical theater? Public speaking? Architecture? Poetry? Visual art? Music? Literature? Ballet? Journalism? Hair styling? Photography? Of course not. Most people have a sufficient body of knowledge in one, two, or maybe three of these areas, but that means the vast majority of the population isn't properly trained in criticism of the rest of those topics. Whether or not "most people" like something has nothing to do with its actual merit. If you disagree with Matt, then prove what makes "Forrest Gump" a well made and properly constructed film. Entertainment value (as proven by the notable absence of "The Shawshank Redemption" on almost every single major film critic's "Top 100" list) has nothing to do with a film's quality.
  • wutdafk
    since when did jenny have aids?? they never say that in the movie and ive watched it many times she dies from a disease or something...

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